Salted Caramels

I made you these for my one year party. And you know what you did? You ate all of them.

It wasn’t easy though. See I started off my screwing up the recipe. I rewrote it for you so you wont make the same mistake but I did have to pitch a whole bunch of sugar. It crystalized and I didn’t know how to bring it back from that. Sigh.

Salted caramels

BUT! The second attempt was perfect. I remember making the a while back and they turned out too hard so I checked the temp both my instant read meat thermometer and my candy thermometer. Sure enough the candy thermometer was reading 10 degrees cooler. So not ok when making candy.

So moral of that story is check your thermometer. I think there is a way to recalibrate my candy thermometer but I have no idea how… maybe I should sort that out.

Salted caramels

Anyways these make the loveliest gifts. I was impressed with how easily they wrapped up. They were delicious for over a week. Probably longer but I can’t say because they were all gone.

Yes in case you are wondering I did hide some from you so I had a few to enjoy in the days after the party. I do that sometimes. Still love me? Good. Thanks!

Salted caramels

One year ago today: Strawberry jam

Two years ago today: Chewy chocolate chip cookies

Salted Caramels (makes 1 8×8 pan)
From Ina Garten 

Vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 water
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides, then brush the paper lightly with oil.

In a deep saucepan (6 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep), combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don’t stir — just swirl the pan.

In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of sea salt to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.

When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful — it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer.

Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.

When the caramel is cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut into pieces and sprinkle the caramel with sea salt. It’s easier to cut the caramels if you brush the knife with flavorless oil like corn oil.

Cut glassine or parchment paper into 4-by-5-inch pieces and wrap each caramel individually, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator and serve the caramels chilled.

Salted Caramels

Yellow Cake Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream

What is a party without cake? I have a go to chocolate cupcake recipe. Seriously could make it in my sleep. However, I do not have a go to yellow or white cake recipe. Yellow Cake Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream As I got ready for the blog party I knew I wanted to make swiss meringue buttercream and flavor it with leftover peach jam. I though a white cake would go beautifully with the delicate buttery frosting. Except I didn’t know white cake is devoid of egg yolks and uses a bazillion eggs whites. Yes a bazillion. I have having leftover yolks or eggs so I avoid it all cost. White cake got scrapped in favor of YELLOW cake. Which uses whole eggs. After much perusing I settled on this recipe and am more than pleased. It was light, easy and delicious. So so so happy to have a go to yellow cake recipe now. Oh and a bazillion cupcakes too. Yellow Cake Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream One year ago today: Chocolate cupcakes with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream Two years ago today: Homemade ricotta Yellow Cake Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream (makes 12-18 cupcakes  and enough frosting for 30+) From Martha Stewart 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled) 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup milk 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 3/4 cup sugar 2 large eggs 1 recipe of this frosting subbing peach jam for the strawberry Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line the cups of a standard (12-cup) muffin tin with paper or foil liners. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a liquid-measuring cup, mix milk and vanilla; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed, add half of dry ingredients, followed by milk-vanilla mixture, then remaining dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (a 2-ounce or 1/4-cup ice-cream scoop is good for this). Place tin on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cupcakes 5 minutes in tin, then remove and cool completely on a rack before frosting. Yellow Cake Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream

Second Anniversary Party Recap

It was such a lovely lovely time. Thank you all for coming!

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So many cupcakes….

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Who knew lemon curd was so popular! It was an after thought even.

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Loved my decorations. And those are flowers from my yard!

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Homemade hummus and delicious (albeit huge) crackers.

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Such lovely weather too.

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The real break out star of the party? Roasted veggies. Who knew? Drizzle veggies with olive oil then throw in the oven 400 F for 15 ish minutes.

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If you serve them at your party they will be the first treat gone. Gauranteed. Or maybe only is you have veggie loving friends like I do.

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In researching mojito recipes for a crowd I discovered one that said it made 8 drinks but used a whole bottle of rum. Good times indeed. Ours were not nearly that stiff.

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Flavored water and sweet take home treats!

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And in case you have had too many cupcakes and the roasted veggies were gone we had the obligatory plate of fresh fruit.

I sold enough raffle tickets to pay for my new camera lens. So very very blessed.

Thank you.

One year ago today: Strawberry jam scones

Two years ago today: Strawberry cupcakes and blueberry muffins

White Russians and Spiked Vanilla Lattes

Splurges. That is what this is about.

We have gone over all the basic alcohols already. We talked about vodka, rum, tequila, gin, whiskey, and bourbon.

Now I want to talk about two extras to keep in your cabinet on a regular basis- coffee liquor and vanilla vodka.

White Russians and Spiked Vanilla Lattes

Confession- when we first started making these I used Kahlua and Smirnoff vanilla vodka. Not that there is anything wrong with that. They make decent drinks.

Then on a recent run to the liquor store (I do that a lot these days) the store clerk suggested Absolut instead of Smirnoff. I honestly thought there couldn’t be that big of a difference but he promised that Absolut was infused with vanilla instead of flavored and that I would love it. Sure. Ok. I’ll try it.

White Russians and Spiked Vanilla Lattes

Um. There is no comparison between to the two. Hands down Absolut wins through and through.

Then I met Vivacity’s Turkish Coffee Liquor. Shut the front door. They use freshly roasted coffee and add cardamom, cinnamon, and cocoa nibs. Lordly is it good. Again, wins hands down compared to Kahlua. 

White Russians and Spiked Vanilla Lattes

There really are a host of finer things in life and I believe these are both worth the splurge.

And with this one little splurge are two great drinks you can make with these two sweet spirits and a little bit of cream. Just adjusting the proportions makes two different, yet equally delicious, drinks.

White Russians and Spiked Vanilla Lattes

Make em. Then enjoy them.

One year ago today: Ensalada Mixta

Two years ago today: Real food banana muffins and Tough day buttermilk and rosemary pound cake

White Russian

White Russian (makes 1 drink)

1 ounce coffee liquor
2 1/2 ounces vanilla vodka (plain vodka is traditional)
1 1/2 ounces cream

Pour the coffee liquor into a small glass filled with ice. Then pour in the vanilla (or plain) vodka, then the cream. Stir before sipping if you want.

Spiked Vanilla Latte

Spiked Vanilla Latte (makes 1 drink)

2 ounces coffee liquor
1 ounce vanilla vodka
3 ounces cream or milk (really just use cream)

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 45 seconds to a minute (this creates the foam). Pour into a chilled martini glass and enjoy.

White Russians and Spiked Vanilla Lattes

Two Years

Two. Two wonderful, chaotic, lovely years.

Technically the blog turned two yesterday but I wanted to share whiskey with you. You get it.

So many things have changed in two years. Gone from mama of a 8 month old to mama of a two and a half year old. Gone from stay at home mama, to blogger, to freelancer, to volunteer coordinator at a non-profit, to now founder of a start up (more to come on that).

What a way to cap it off than by drinking all month and partying hard on Saturday. May 31st (THIS SATURDAY) we will party hard from 3-5. Cosmos, lavender cupcakes, and much much more.

Oh and I broke my camera lens. The one I shoot everything with. So to replace it I am raffling off either dinner for four delivered to your house (you better be local) or a cake of your choosing. Tickets are $5. Let me know if you want a ticket or ten!

Love you much. Thank you for your readership. Come on over and I will make you a drink.

From my little family to yours.

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Whiskey Sour

Ahhhh whiskey.

Whiskey

My first exposure to whiskey was a shot I took one night in a bar in Barcelona. I remember thinking “huh… that wasn’t so bad.”

My next encounter with whiskey was also a shot. I was traveling for work and, as I often did, I was having dinner alone at the bar of a restaurant. Some nice guys started chatting with me and eventually we wound up with shot of Jameson. Delicious.

Then one of my friends started ordering Marker’s Mark on the rocks when we went out. That was when I was truly converted to being a whiskey drinker (although Maker’s is technically a bourbon). It took a couple of tries to really get used to sipping it straight but I was hooked from the get go. So carmely. So good.

Whiskey Sour

Both Nathan and I are now regular whiskey drinkers. Pendleton doesn’t last long at our house. It is mostly drank on the rocks, sometimes we drink it neat. Occasionally it winds up mixed in to something. It’s just so darn good.

Bull Rum makes a delicious whiskey that we have been sipping on lately. Finally I made it in to whiskey sours a couple of night ago.

Whiskey Sour

Please please please listen to me when I tell you to not buy sour mix. A whiskey sour is just lemon juice, simple syrup, and whiskey. Separating the components like that makes it a breeze to adjust the flavor. Like it sweeter? Add more syrup. Like is sourer? Add more lemon juice.

I am only sharing one whiskey drink with you today. Either of the drinks I have already shared with you when we talked bourbon are great with just plain whiskey.Whiskey

So make a drink with your whiskey but take time to sip it on the rocks. If you have listened to me and purchased good spirits you wont be disappointed.

One year ago today: Homemade pasta and One year

Whiskey Sour

Whiskey Sour (makes 1 drink)

1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces whiskey
Cherry for garnish

Pour all the ingredients except the cherry into a shaker filled with ice. Shake till well chilled. Pour over ice into a glass. Garnish with a cherry or two. Drink in garden in the sunshine.

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Martinis and Gimlets

Gin gets a bad rap.

I think when people think of gin they think of gnawing on a pine tree. While some gin does have a heavy juniper flavor there are so many other varieties and flavors out there. Dismissing gin because you don’t like juniper means you haven’t tried enough gin.

So drink more gin.

Gimlets

I happen to love craft gin. Pretty much all of it. We have Brokers in our cabinet as a basic level dry gin for mixing. Also we have been lucky enough to have three of the very best gins on the market in our cabinet as well. And all three of those are from Oregon.

Aria from Bull Run and Bankers Gin from Vivacity Spirits are both so London dry style gins and are SO different from each other. Bankers is crisp, dry, and citrusy. Aria is a bit softer with a pronounced forward juniper flavor and a lingering finish. Both are stunning.

Gin

But then there is the Native Gin from Vivacity as well. I had the privilege of meeting and chatting with Caitlin who is the distiller at Vivacity. She lovingly called Native her gateway gin. And a gateway it is indeed.

See I didn’t drink gin till I tried Native. Last winter at a holiday market was the first time I really tasted gin at all. Yes. You did just read that right. I have been drinking gin for less than six months. Trust me when I say I’m making up for lost time.

Stir a martini don't shake it

After tasting the Vivacity gins I braved buying Native later on that week. I say braved because I was still a tad scared of gin. Buy oh my the gin and tonics we drank…. That bottle disappeared quickly. Then Nathan was gifted Vivacity’s Bankers Gin for Christmas and that was dispatched just as quickly.

Somewhere along this journey of mixing gin and tonics and gimlets I realized I really like gin. One night out with girlfriends I just up and ordered a martini. Holy deliciousness. Seriously. Who knew olive soaked in gin were that good too!?

Gimlets

If you love gin you know what I am talking about. Come over and I will make you are martini. If you don’t like gin, please come over and I will make you a gimlet and let you sip on some Native Gin and you will realize gin wasn’t what you thought it was.

Martinis

One year ago today: One year anniversary party

Gimlets

Gimlet (makes 1 drink)

Gimlets are traditionally made with Rose’s lime juice but I just can’t (or won’t). I am offering you options here to either use fresh lime or Rose’s.

2 ounces gin (London dry is best)
3/4 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
OR 1 ounce Rose’s lime juice

Pour the ingredients into a shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake till well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Martinis

Martini (makes 1 drink)

3 ounces gin (splurge for a great gin)
1/2 ounce dry vermouth (or to taste)
Olives for garnish

Pour the gin and vermouth into a tall glass filled with ice. Stir gently with a spoon till well chilled (we don’t shake martinis because it clouds the gin). Strain into a martini glass and garnish with olives.

Mint Juleps and Old Fashioneds

When I wrote the initial post about how to stock your liquor cabinet I lumped whiskey and bourbon together. While I don’t think it is imperative that you have both I highly encourage it.

Because more liquor is just that- more liquor. And that is rarely a bad thing. Unless it is. Then please don’t.

Both mint juleps and old fashioneds I think are standouts for bourbon. You can make these with whiskey and no one will mind one bit. But buy bourbon and keep it on hand. If you can.

Mint Julep

Mint juleps are a traditional southern drink and the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. Crushing the ice to smithereens is an extra step but one I seriously think you should take. Just wrap the ice in a towel and whack it with your rolling pin. Or do as I did and just whir it in your food processor. Either way you want tiny crushed ice bits. It is way cool when the outside of your glass freezes (ha ha ha).

Mint Julep

Besides if you have been making drinks along with me so far you will already have the mint in your fridge. Or just grow a big patch outside your front door.

Mint Julep

Old fashioneds are a new to me drink. Clearly they are not new new seeing as they are old fashioned (man I am on a roll). When I first started making these I was using real maraschino cherries. Oh my yuck. Thankfully I complained to a friend and he suggested using dark morello cherries from Trader Joe’s. What an easy swap and what a win.

Old Fashioned

Granted the morellos wont last for years on end in your fridge the same way but they are a great treat to appease a toddler while you are whipping up your drinks for the evening. Not that that has ever happened to me. Nor did I make him a virgin tequila sunrise because he wanted a drink like mommy’s.

Old Fashioned

The other ingredient you need to hunt down for old fashioneds are bitters. Bitters are a “liquor that is flavored with the sharp pungent taste of plant extracts and is used as an additive in cocktails.” In this case we are using Angostura bitters. One bottle is relatively cheap and will last maybe forever. Just do it. Being able to make old fashioneds is worth it. 

One year ago today: Earl grey cake with rhubarb cream cheese glaze and Spanish tortilla

Mint Julep

Mint Julep (makes 1 drink)

Leaves from 4-5 mint sprigs
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 1/2 ounces bourbon whiskey
Mint sprig for garnish

Place the mint and simple syrup into a old-fashioned glass. Muddle well to dissolve the sugar and to release the oil and aroma of the mint. Fill with crushed ice, pour the bourbon on top, and stir well until the glass becomes frosty. Garnish with the mint sprig.

Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned (makes 1 drink)

2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 tsp sugar
1-2 morello cherries
1 lemon peel twist

Place the sugar in a glass and drop in the cherries. Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back end of a spoon. Pour in bourbon, add a dash or two of bitters, fill with ice cubes, and stir.

Margaritas and Tequila Sunrises

Ok so I already told you the first bottle of alcohol I bought was a peppermint schnapps to add to my hot cocoa. While I cannot say this with 100% certainty I am pretty confident the second bottle I bought was tequila.

Many a night in college was spent at the late night half off appetizer and cheap margaritas happy hour at Applebees (I feel like I just outed myself for saying that). Love me a margarita.

Margarita

At first I only wanted them blended and with strawberry. Over time I moved on to just lime and blended then finally lime on the rocks. Oh the salt. That was my favorite part.

And once there was this one night with a bottle of tequila and another of orange juice. There may have only been three of us that night but we drank the.whole.bottle. One of the three who were there that night refuses to drink tequila sunrises to this day. Hint- it isn’t me.

Tequila Sunrise

A few years ago I traveled to Mexico for work and had the pleasure of learning to sip tequila. Goodness gracious that stuff is delicious. And artisan tequila can be as unique and tasty as craft bourbon. Yes I said it. That is how much I like it.

So picking which tequila drinks to make you was SO easy. These are my go to. Margaritas more so than tequila sunrises because a) they aren’t as sweet and b) I tend to have all the ingredients on hand.

Margarita

If you have been following along making drinks you will already have all the things you need to make margaritas. Tequila sunrises you simply need orange juice and grenadine. Grenadine last forever by the way. I can’t even tell you how long we have had the bottle that we own.

Tequila Sunrise

So bottoms up. These are two of my faves.

One year ago today: Vanilla poppyseed thumbprint cookies with strawberry jam

Margaritas

Margarita (makes 1 drink)

1 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce triple sec
1 1/2 ounces tequila
Salt for rim

Place salt in a shallow dish. Moisten the rim of a rocks glass with a lime, then dip in salt. Add ice to the glass. Fill your shaker 3/4 full of ice. Add the tequila, lime juice, and triple sec. Shake for 30 seconds or till well chilled. Pour over ice into the prepared glass.

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Tequila Sunrise (makes 1 drink)

4 ounces orange juice
2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce grenadine

Pour the tequila and the orange juice into a highball glass with ice cubes. Stir. Slowly pour the grenadine around the inside edge of the glass, it will sink and slowly rise to mix with the other ingredients naturally.

Mojitos and Daiquiri

Lets talk rum.

For the sake of this post today we are just going to be chatting about light rum. It is really all I have on hand at the moment too.

I reserve dark rum mainly for cooking (remember the peaches foster?) or for sipping. The difference between light and dark rum is that dark rum is aged longer in a charred barrel. Tastiness. Spiced rum is rum that has had spices or flavorings added to it. Also delicious.

Daiquiri

But for mixing I recommend, and use a light rum. Like the Pacific Rum from Bull Run. It is wonderfully coconutty (is that a word?) with hints of vanilla and citrus. Incredible to just sip but oh so good in on my current favorite drinks- mojitos.

Mint MojitoTalk about a drink that makes alcohol shine. A little mint, a little simple syrup, a little lime, a little club soda, and a good dose of rum. The flavor meld so beautifully but you can still taste the full flavor of the rum.

We have a mint patch out in front of our house. I feel a little like it is cheating but I LOVE having mint on hand 24/7 for mojitos (and mint juleps).Mint Mojito

But today isn’t just about mojitos. If you scale things back and don’t add club soda and skip muddling the mint you get a daiquiri. Hang in with me on this one. I am guessing that to you a daiquiri is a slushie type drink that is overly sweet and usually involving strawberries or other fruits. Yes it can be that but the original daiquiri is just simple syrup, lime juice, and rum.

Daiquiri

Swoon.

So with one shopping trip and only buying three ingredients (other than rum) you can make both of these tasty drink (if you already went shopping for the things you needed  for vodka collins and cosmopolitans you will have everything expect mint!).

The mojitos do require a tid bit of effort as you need to muddle the mint. Simply that means put it in the shaker, add some sugar, and mush it. The more you mush it the more you get the tasty mint flavor.

And daiquiris? The bulk of the effort is juicing some limes and crushing some ice. A total breeze.

What is your favorite way to drink rum?

One year ago today: Beef with Broccoli (my most popular post) and Lamb Burgers

Mint Mojito

Mojito (makes 1 drink)

6-8 mint leaves
2-3 tsp sugar
Juice from 1 lime
2 ounces rum
4-5 ounces club soda

Place the sugar lime juice and mints in your cocktail shaker. Muddle well. Add ice filling it half full and pour in the rum. Shake for 30 second or until well chilled. Pour over ice into a 14 ounce collins glass. Top with club soda to taste.

This drink is very forgiving so play with proportions till you hit on your perfect combination.

Daiquiri

Daiquiri (makes 1 drink)

2 ounces light rum
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Lime wedge for garnish

Pour the light rum, lime juice and sugar syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or pour over crushed ice in a rocks glass.